Y’all may be wondering how the pandemic is affecting our ministry and this community. Lisa goes shopping and we deliver food to families weekly. We go to the designated school sites and pick up boxes of school lunches and breakfasts for our kids and take them to their homes. The public school’s response in this crisis has been terrific, but even though food is made available it is not always getting to the people who need it. The food drop-off operates for just a few hours in the middle of each day, at different sites, and many people are working during these hours. If you are a single parent you may not have the time, or transportation, or someone to pick up food for your children. There are families who are not getting food for a variety of personal reasons. We try to step in the gap for them. It’s the same with the online learning with school. The schools have made computers available to families for the children; but it involved a process that some of our families did not respond to, resulting in many of our kids not having computers and not doing school work. We have a couple of generous donors who made it possible for us to procure computers for our kids who needed them. A large part of our work during this crisis has been to get resources into the homes that need them.
In spite of the restrictions and crisis we all face as a society, the ongoing dysfunctional crises of our community has not slowed down at all. We see drug dealing and prostitution in the same places and there have been several shootings. Street violence has not taken a sabbatical during this time. I see in the news how this pandemic has been affecting low income areas disproportionately in our inner cities. The lack of access to healthcare and the effect of limited income on basic needs apply here as well. We’ve had a couple of young men become ill as a result of working at their essential worker jobs but they seem to be recovering.
At times I feel like there’s not a lot we can do right now. I miss the quality time I’d spend with the teen boys multiple times a week picking them up for practice and going to tournaments. I have a fresh core group of ten -year olds that I was bringing along, cultivating friendships and a group identity. We have not met for church for six weeks and I worry about our parishioners’ spiritual development. Our ministry is relationship intensive and just doesn’t translate well to Facebook and Instagram and online church services. I even miss my rough group of fifth graders at school… it’s taken me most of the year to earn their trust. I pray for all of them constantly.
We have one student who is on the brink of acceptance to college with a full scholarship included. His senior year has been turned upside down. Just before this crisis he was coming to the end of a long struggle in court because of a momentary bad choice he made. He is going through that, as well as not experiencing his senior year with his friends. But not alone… we encourage and support him and he is moving in the right direction. Another young man was doing well in his college prep high school courses but due to the online learning transition and his family’s lack of resources he fell significantly behind. We were able to get him a computer as well as teleconference with his school principal and teachers to get him back on the right track. When I visit my young guys… my middle school basketball players, they are always surprised when I show up with boxes of food for them and their siblings. Before the crisis I couldn’t get them to sit still for a serious talk for five minutes but now they are reluctant to let our curbside visits come to an end. Last week while we were delivering food we had a mother break down in tears as she shared her burden and stress with us… caring for a house full of children at a time when she cannot work. We prayed with her before we left and she was encouraged, knowing that God is indeed with her. Another family was about to be evicted; would surely be on the streets now with her young children if we were not able to help her with the resources you provide.
So there is a lot we can do. We can usher God’s presence into the lives of our troubled parishioners. I try to remember what Lisa told me when this all began and I doubted the efficacy of these small offerings. “Chris, when they see you they are reminded of Jesus”. That’s what drives us. Through your support we are able to spread the “fragrance of Christ” (2 Cor. 2.14), so that they might know that God is with them. Thank you for your support and prayers.